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Improving Hot Spot Policing through Behavioral Interventions

NCJ Number
Date Published
15 pages

Since current research on “hot-spots” policing (focusing police resources on areas of concentrated crime) provides little insight on the factors that shape offenders’ perceptions of the costs and benefits of a crime, the current research addressed this knowledge gap by using a behavioral science approach to understanding offender decision-making in hot spots in New York City.


This research was conducted in three phases. Phase 1 developed hypotheses about offender decision-making. This phase involved semi-structured interviews with individuals who were currently incarcerated, formerly incarcerated individuals, individuals currently on probation, and community members in high-crime areas who had no justice-system involvement. The interviews suggested factors for further testing. Phase 2 tested each of the Phase-1 hypotheses with a series of laboratory experiments and then selecting the hypothesis that seemed most promising for developing a field intervention. The most promising hypothesis was that when police are more identifiable or have interacted personally with residents, they are viewed as more trustworthy, making it more likely that an individual will think of the officer before committing an offense. Phase 3 developed and conducted a field intervention that tested whether reducing officer anonymity might deter crime. In a randomized controlled trial (RCT), the project tested whether sending information about individual officers to residents in housing developments would deter crime in those developments. Preliminary results suggest that this intervention was effective, particularly in reducing crime in the areas surrounding the housing developments. These findings suggest that it is possible to deter crime by familiarizing residents in hot spots with the officers in their community. Appended list of dissemination activities

Date Published: January 1, 2019